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De Ting

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 29, 2008

It was late in the day and the softness of the afternoon was giving way to the on-coming darkness of night. As the shadows descended, as if out of nowhere, Oskie asked,
"How things going with yo' health boy?"

"Poc a' poc," I replied, using the Creole form of the French expression, "peu a' peu," which means "little by little."
It was four months since I had my prostate operation and we had not approached the subject after earlier discussions. Oskie's reluctance to ask about my condition may have resulted from the demise of my first cousin, twelve years older than I, from prostate cancer one month after I had my operation.
"Did you have your post-surgery check-up?"

"About two weeks ago."

"And what de doctor tell yo'?"

"He said we had gotten rid of the cancer."

"Yo' mean two of all yo' had cancer?"

"Ah just using de royal we. Ah mean me."

"Why didn't yo' say dat?" I ignored that 'dis.

"O.K. I ent' have no more cancer..." I said joyfully.

"Dat better," he said. "Does it mean you could use 'de ting?'"

"De doctor told me that since I have gotten rid of the cancer I could go back to having a normal life doing all the things I used to do before de operation."

"Does that mean you could use 'de ting?'"
Oskie was insistent. The question seemed more a dare than a quest for information; more an attempt to deal with his conflicts than a genuine concern for my health. Ah start to play stupid.

"Well, boy, I ent have no problem urinating. Two weeks after they took out the catheter I stopped using the pads..." (A catheter is a tube that is placed in the bladder to drain the urine while the surgical connection between the urethra and the bladder heals. Prostate cancer patients generally use pads to absorb the uncontrollable escape of urine.)

"So yo' eh had no problem peeing?"

"No problem at all."

"A glad yo' peeing and yo' stop dripping but what ah really asking is if yo' have any problems using 'de ting.?'"

"Yo' mean if ah could have sex?"
Knowing black man and his indubitable pride in his sexual prowess, I could not evade the question any more...
"You mean if I had an erection yet?"

"Well, kinda..."

"But Oscar (ah had to call him by his real name now) is only four months since I had my operation."

"And 'de ting' still dead?"
I felt uncomfortable. I hesitated a moment. Before I could answer Oskie was on my case again...

"Like yo' 'fraid to answer or what!"

"I ain't 'fraid to answer?' I retorted a pit peeved.

"Well why don't you answer the question," he demanded.

In embarrassment I had to confess. "I tried to use 'de ting' but de boy wasn't up to the task." "You mean yo' couldn't get it up." He had to get raw and vulgar. By this time ah getting more vex. He won't stop. He continued:
"So what yo' tell de woman?"

"Ah didn't tell she nothing."

"How yo' mean yo' ent tell she nothing?"

"She knew I had an operation so ah sure she understand."

"Woman never understand dat."

"How yo' mean?"

"Dey eh care if you had an operation or not. If you fall down on the wok, yo' out of luck. There's no excuse. When ah' woman want 'de ting' she just want 'de ting.' Is nothing you could say to soothe she demanding soul." "But not all woman like dat," came my lame response. "Some are understanding."

"You stay dey and feel so."

"Well de woman I was with say she understand and dat is all dat matter. She told me to be patient and things will work out in time."

"And you believe she?"

"A had to."

"Let me tell you something. Yo' better keep yo' self to yo'self until you can do something because if you can't put down a proper wok you bring shame to all de brothers and dishonor all de men and dem."
"So de only way yo' honor men is to be able to use 'de ting," I said derisively but perhaps a bit ashamed.

"That's right," he said with an assurance.

I was not ashamed at what Oskie saw as my failure but as the darkening shadows came over Oskie's brow, I wasn't sure if he saw me as less than a man because I couldn't use 'de ting' yet or maybe never again." The falling darkness prevented me from seeing his facial expression and so I too was left in the dark.

Dat night an owl in one of the trees in the back of my yard hooted three times. In Creole mythology as in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) when an owl hoots three times it means that someone is going to die.

I wondered if Oskie was on to something that I did not know.

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